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4 Takeaways from Patriots Defensive Coaches

The Patriots defensive coaching staff weighing in on some of their standout players and how their side of the ball is coming together.

Patriots linebacker coach Jerod Mayo.
Patriots linebacker coach Jerod Mayo.

The Patriots coaches took time to speak with reporters on Friday during the brief respite between two productive joint practices and Saturday's preseason game against the Packers.

On the defensive side of the ball, the team is embracing some new additions that are making some welcome impacts at all levels of the defense. There wasn't much turnover from 2022's squad, so there's reason to believe this year's unit, with an influx that includes the top three picks in the draft and some emerging veterans, can be even better.

The one major piece of turnover was the retirement of Devin McCourty. So far, the team has employed an everyone everywhere approach that will be tough for offenses to decipher. On any given snap, any of the team's safeties, and even some of the cornerbacks, could be in the deep part of the field.

But as Bill Belichick pointed out on Friday morning, it's more than just who's playing free safety, it's about making sure everyone is on the same page snap-to-snap.

"I think all of our safeties have done a really good job with the communication, said Belichick. "Pep [Jabrill Peppers], [Kyle] Dugger, AP [Adrian Phillips], Jalen's [Mills] done a really good job with him working in there. He's also worked at other positions in the secondary as well. Myles [Bryant] has also taken over some of the communication with Jon Jones not participating here this week.

"As a group, those guys have really done a good job of collectively communicating together, being vocal and making sure that everybody, including the linebackers that are involved in that, know what's going on. Obviously, we've had some mistakes out there, and we missed a few things. But, I'd say generally speaking, it's been way more good than bad."

Here are some key takeaways from the defensive coaches on Friday.

Keion White is fitting in

Rookie Keion White stood out in last week's game against the Texans and continued to bring that energy with some standout moments during joint practices. White's size and versatility have been an intriguing addition to the defensive front, offering newfound flexibility up front.

"He's got a ways to go, but he's a great athlete and obviously he brings a great attitude to the room," said Jerod Mayo of White.

"He's a great dude to work with," said defensive line coach Demarcus Covington. "He's a true professional. He's been trying to learn everything he can since day one. Taking everything from the playbook, from the weight role to everything in the building that we asked him to do. He's been doing a really good job of being a true professional. Really doing it every day, going out there to the practice field with the mindset to get better. Real good questions in the meeting rooms and then applying it on the field."

White appeared to suffer a minor injury toward the end of the second joint practice in Green Bay and could be unlikely to suit up for the Saturday night game, but a solid foundation has already been set. Hopefully, he can continue to build on it next week in Nashville.

Jabrill Peppers, presence felt

It's hard to miss Jabrill Peppers' impact on the defense this summer. After working his way into the lineup last season, Peppers started to show flashes of four-down playmaking ability. This year, following McCourty's retirement, Peppers role seems to be growing on and off the field.

Every day, Peppers brings energy and it seems to have an infectious effect.

"Yeah, when you're around Pep, it didn't take me very long, I think it took like two weeks last year when he got here," said Steve Belichick of Peppers' energy. "He's a very passionate person and he always has good energy, that's just kind of who he is and you know what you're going to get. I appreciate that about him. His mentality and mindset. A lot of guys gravitate toward that and feed off that. I think it's good thing."

With a year in the system, Peppers spoke earlier this summer about how much more comfortable he is. Belichick agreed.

"I think he's probably just a lot more comfortable now," said Steve Belichick. "Just more confidence and more comfortable... He was pretty good last year but I'm sure there's an element of confidence too. He's definitely looking and playing more confident in my eyes."

Gameplans and Schemes

The Pats pass rush was especially noticeable during the first session on Wednesday, with Matthew Judon, Deatrich Wise and Davon Godchaux among those tapping off Jordan Love for would-be sacks. With the addition of White and so many versatile front-seven players, it gives the defensive coaches a lot to play around with.

But Jerod Mayo pointed out even the best-laid gameplans are often left by the wayside once the game starts, leaving the coaches and players to adjust on the fly.

"We build a pass rush plan every week, but at the end of the day, you have to be able to make adjustments," said Mayo. "So, we're watching past film and trying to predict how they're going to come out but it doesn't always work that way. And so we always tried to be like, 'It's your defense, have ownership, accountability. Here are the keys to the defense. You're on the field.' We always talk about teaching them how to think, not what to think."

No matter the adjustments the coaches cook up though, it comes down to the players making the plays.

"I think one part of it is scheme, what scheme are they running?" said Mayo. "The other part of it is who do we like as far as matching up against them? The scheme is one thing, but I really truly believe that it's about the players. Whereas our Xs and Os are very fundamentally sound, it's about having good players at all three levels, providing depth off the bench, guys coming off the bench, and those guys being able to make an impact as well. So it's about the players."

Defensive Front , Pressure Cooker

As far as things can come together in training camp, the defensive front has enjoyed a level of experience that has allowed them to start off at a high level early in the summer.

"We've got a lot of good players across the board," said Steve Belichick. "It's a great group, a versatile group. Those guys play hard, they rush hard. Especially for them, it starts with stopping the run. So the better that they can stop the run, the more that they'll get to pass rush. I think they'll understand that and they're definitely bought in on that."

"One of the things that you know at this time of the year is about building fundamentals and technique and communication," said Covington. "I think they're doing a good job with that and we've got to execute in practice which you know, that will correlate to the game so when those game situations come up, we can do a good job of one containing the quarterback, affecting the quarterback and applying pressure on every snap."

Even defensive backs coach Mike Pellegrino agreed that the defensive front and their pressure can help make magic happen in the secondary.

"What's the number one best pass coverage? Pass rush," said Pellegrin. "So we love those guys. Those guys they get after the quarterback makes our job a whole lot easier back there. The ball is getting out of hand faster. We can go make some plays."

DISCLAIMER: The views and thoughts expressed in this article are those of the writer and don't necessarily reflect those of the organization. Read Full Disclaimer

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